As one of the top pediatric hospitals in the nation, many patients come to Texas Children’s to access the high quality care and services that our hospital provides to children and women. But often times, trying to schedule an appointment to get into our system can be frustrating for patients and their families.
That’s why Texas Children’s is hitting this challenge head on. Several months ago, the Texas Children’s Access and Patient Scheduling Task Force conducted a baseline assessment of the hospital’s current landscape which revealed several opportunities for the organization to improve access. The Task Force proposed more than 30 recommendations and prioritized which ones would be implemented first.
The first wave of specialties went live on March 1, aligning provider schedules to a standard four-hour clinic session definition to ensure patients receive the service and availability they need. Six specialties impacted during the first wave of operational improvements include: Allergy & Immunology, Rheumatology, Nephrology, Neurology, Orthopedics and Baylor College of Medicine’s Obstetrics/Gynecology. There will be three more waves launching from April to June to standardize clinic sessions for all of the specialties at the hospital.
“After we evaluated appointment templates for over 200 providers, we found additional slots where physicians could see patients for a duration of four hours,” said Texas Children’s Assistant Vice President Carrie Rys. “By making that recommended change, we were able to add about over 10,000 new patient appointments annually into the system.”
Last year, 20 percent of appointment slots were unfilled due to restrictive scheduling practices and last minute cancellations. The committee also identified more than 60 different referral processes throughout the system, which made it extremely cumbersome for patients and families to access our care.
With tremendous support from Texas Children’s leadership, the committee identified additional system wide recommendations that will be implemented in waves over the next several months including:
- 72-hour flip: If an appointment slot for a specific patient type is not filled 72 hours out, the slot will open automatically to a broader group of patients to maintain flexibility and open schedules
- Fast Pass: This new MyChart feature creates an electronic waitlist and automatically offers up cancelled appointments to patients desiring a sooner appointment.
- Online scheduling: Since most families overwhelmingly prefer online scheduling, referral and scheduling processes will be streamlined and standardized across the system to enable online scheduling for new and existing patients across all specialties beginning later this year.
- Future idea development: The committee is vetting additional recommendations including how to optimize space utilization, pursue a formalized escalation process and leverage telemedicine.
“Our objective is to lay a solid foundation and layer on additional patient access solutions once we have a sturdy infrastructure to build from,” said Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier and co-chair of the Access Executive Steering Committee. “Because we really care about our families, we have to pay attention to their needs and do more to help them out. We have to keep the doors open to our patients.”